“Why youth ministry?”
“Why on earth would anyone choose to remain in the social, emotional, and spiritual chaos of being a teenager? ”
“Why choose passion over prestige?”
“Why devote time to the Church in a culture that calls it ridiculous?”
…and why spend extra time in the office writing about it after the workday instead of going home and having dinner?
(^that last one rings closer to home at the moment, in case it weren’t obvious)
Now, the weeks leading up to and following graduation was a special time of these conversations. You know how those go. People, whether friends, co-workers, or classmates, bring up post-grad life. I am so incredibly grateful that I got to tell people that I had a job lined up after many months of discernment (more on that later).
“I actually have a job that I’m starting in July.”
“At my Catholic Church, for youth ministry”
…now this is the part where the person I was talking with started to become less interested (and sometimes uncomfortable).
“Oh that’s nice.”
Now I definitely did not enter college thinking I would graduate with my heart set on being devoted to ministry of any sort. Honestly, I had pretty low expectations for myself. I just wanted to get some office job, in whatever industry will accept me. I was involved in my youth group throughout my high school years but had no desire to work for the Church. At the time, I liked only dedicating some of my time and effort to God. I wasn’t willing to give Him my life..
Explaining the “what”
In these conversations I would explain how youth ministry covers both middle school and high school, the most pivotal years of a young person’s life. I would explain that ministry involves organization, events, and mentorship. It’s a balance between weekly gatherings, prayer experiences, social events, and retreats. It’s pretty powerful. But also, there’s that aspect of community when natural relationships with teens. I see these teens regularly and have unique friendships with each one of them that’s evolved over the course of a year throughout games, small talk, trips, conversations, and hanging out.
It’s an incredibly beautiful opportunity to get to share with people about what youth ministry is. After sharing, people would share how excited they were for me.
1. The Youth Are Where It’s At
There’s that cliche “the children are our future”.
These emotional and crazy-awesome teenagers are saints in the making. They make pop culture and fashion trends. They are going to be our future engineers, teachers, business people, artists, and world-changers.
The New Evangelization is the way for the Church to passionately pursue and intentional form those who are going to influence the world after we are long gone.
2. They Are Worth It
Having faithful and compassionate youth ministers in my life was extremely helpful for me during high school. These people, who were neither my parents nor my friends at school, saw me regularly and didn’t demand anything from me. They just wanted to love me.
With the hormones, emotional struggles, and drama… teenagers are in desperate need for a strong fortress in their life. Like a sturdy home that continues to stand during a wild storm.
A teenager is more than the titles given to them. They’re not just a “basketball player” or “the valedictorian”. They’re a child of God, with each one made for greatness. They are totally worth Jesus dying on the cross for them.
With that said, they are worth being listened to by a youth minister or Core Member when opening up about their lives. The are worth playing sports with. They are worth losing hours of sleep during a fun lock-in. They are worth the hours and stress that go into putting on a retreat. They are worth the perseverance and awkwardness of making small talk and trying to get to know them. They are worth our patience. They are worth our compassion. They are worth our joy. They are worth having a community that is for them and with them.
3. They Have a Right to Know Their Father
One time someone presented me with the thought to “take some time and to reflect why you do what you do.” It was the most simple answer: they deserve to know who their Father is.
No, not an earthly or spiritual father. Their Divine Father who created everything on earth, including the depths of a teenager’s soul.
I, and many others, found myself in a youth group setting with a lot of junk and sin going on in my life. I didn’t seek God out, He sought me. Crazy, right? He placed people and situations in my life in order pursue me so that I could know Him and understand Him more. Jesus is a gentlemen, and was very patient with me slowly embracing Him over the years.
Teenagers have a right to benefit from the Church, started by Jesus, to provide them the resources to know about salvation history. They deserve the ability to experience friendships in a holy and loving environment. They deserve the opportunities to practice traditions (sacred scripture, mass, Eucharistic adoration, praise&worship) that allows them to intimately encounter Him and know Him.
The most inspiring and fully alive people I know started off as kids in youth group.
Do I know everything I am doing? No.
Is this challenging? Absolutely.
Is this a fulfilling job? Oh, heck yeah.